Not withstanding the continued mound struggles of left-hander Matt Harrison (4 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K), third baseman Michael Young's still-sizzling bat and ninth-inning almost-heroics, separate injuries sustained by outfielder Andruw Jones (bruised right knee) and right-hander Willie Eyre (aggravated right groin strain) that will likely prompt at least one roster move on Thursday and submariner Darren O'Day's inimitable Rangers debut, the Rogers Centre spotlight clearly shone brightest upon a burgeoning Derek Holland during Wednesday evening's 11-inning loss.
Summoned into a two-out, bases-loaded mess created by sinkerballer Scott Feldman in the bottom of the sixth inning that was technically a far lower-leverage situation than what right-hander Warner Madrigal was required to make his own major league debut in last July 2nd (by virtue of the Rangers already trailing 6-3 at the time of Holland's entrance), the 22-year-old southpaw yielded an infield RBI single before attacking a still-potent Scott Rolen with three consecutive heaters ranging from 94-97 mph and then unleashing a 1-2 slider that induced a harmless inning-ending pop out.
Tenacious, efficient and accurate during the sharp 2.1 innings of work that constituted his long-awaited major league debut, Holland logged 29 of his 42 pitches for strikes and permitted just a single three-ball count during his relentless assault upon a bewildered Blue Jays lineup which truthfully never had a chance:
[Don't know what this graph is? Click here for more information. "Movement" is essentially defined as the number of inches a pitch moved based solely upon spin (with this graph showing the view from the catcher's perspective). Trajectory, arm angle and gravity have no bearing on movement calculations. Background photo courtesy of Scott Lucas.]
Several noteworthy things: (a) Pitch f/x's confidence level on that lone two-seam fastball is low enough that it was likely a four-seam fastball in reality, and (b) one of those 37 pitches recognized as a four-seam fastball registered at just 86.2 mph but had movement similar to that of his fastball, indicating a potential change-up that might have slipped through the cracks of Pitch f/x's neural network. Altering computer-derived pitch classifications is a slippery slope, however, and it is for that reason that a friendly warning will suffice.
Removing said "mystery pitch" from the data results in an impressive average fastball velocity of 94.3 mph and a maximum fastball velocity of 97.1 mph, which borders on unhittable when thrown with the above-average tailing movement and command that Holland exhibited on Wednesday evening. His slider, a dirty little 84-85 mph offering which is widely regarded as his third-best pitch, produced the photogenic swinging strikeout of Aaron Hill with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning; after falling behind in the count 1-2, Hill swung helplessly over a down-and-in slider and literally dropped to one knee with his bat raised high in his left hand (as illustrated in the below video):
[Direct link available here.]
Left-hander C.J. Wilson's 11th-inning control problems and O'Day's unceremonious Rangers debut -- which was preceded by the bizarre sight of O'Day donning a jersey bearing Kason Gabbard's last name and meeting his new manager and teammates for the first time only after trotting in from the bullpen -- effectively rendered Michael Young's ninth-inning dramatics moot from the standpoint of actually winning the game, but it was Holland's brilliance in relief that enabled that late-inning comeback in the first place, and his presence gives Ron Washington one very formidable secret weapon until his inevitable transition to the starting rotation is complete.
This is going to be fun to watch.